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Politics snags another starring role

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By Karin Caifa in Austin, Texas

Like most people here in Texas on Tuesday, the guy minding the cute little boutique where I was attempting to browse talked my ear off about politics. As I tried to compare one set of earrings to another, he told me about that time he turned a corner and nearly knocked a hot cup of coffee into John McCain. While I considered bracelets, he related the experiences of his friends at a Hillary Clinton rally the night before. And as I scrounged the rack for a floral print skirt in my size, he told me he'd seen Barack Obama in person here too.

"Tall guy," he concluded.

"Well, I guess things will be back to normal after today," I said while he rang up my purchases, "You know, when the voting is said and done."

"Oh, this is nothing," he said, gesturing outside. "Just wait until South by Southwest gets started this weekend. Then this town really gets buzzing."

South by Southwest, or SXSW, is a week-long music, media and film festival right here in Austin. This year's events - which include film screenings, live music performances and industry panels -- kick off on Friday, right on the heels of the hot presidential primary contests that took place on Tuesday. So maybe it's not a surprise that for many of the films making their world premiere here, politics takes a starring role.

Some of the films debuting in Austin at  SXSW are serious documentaries, and war is a major topic. "Bulletproof Salesman" chronicles the operations of Fidelis Cloer, who describes himself as a war profiteer and sells luxury armored vehicles amidst the violence in Iraq.  "Body of War" follows a 26-year-old Army veteran paralyzed in Iraq, and the struggles of his post-military life.

"Crawford" looks at the home of President Bush's retreat through the eyes of its citizens, who endured lots of changes when the Western White House came to town. "Frontrunners," meanwhile, focuses on the next generation of politicians, following the sophisticated and rigorous process for electing a student body president at New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School.

And for slightly less highbrow fare, you can catch the world premiere of "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay," the sequel to the frat-house favorite "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle." Because even if you're as wild about politics as my friend in the boutique, everyone deserves a little break from the action.

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